Ecological Significance of Norwood

As soon as the purchase of Norwood Farm was completed, research scientists from our Science and Stewardship Department conducted some preliminary studies of the habitats found on the property. Here are some brief notes on their findings:

There are documented occurrences of 18 rare species protected under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act:

–          1 bird of prey (northern harrier)

–          5 plants (St. Andrew’s cross, Mitchell’s sedge, bushy rockrose, sandplain blue-eyed grass, Nantucket shadbush)

–          12 moths

There are 16 distinct plant communities present on the property.

Both terminal moraine and outwash plain glacial deposits are present, which indicates that the property represents the very edge of the most recent glacial advance.

There are several intermittent streams (rare occurrences on Nantucket) on the property that interconnect the wetlands and drain to Polpis Harbor.

The southern portion of the property contains a relatively large (3 acre) kettlehole pond, a wetland that formed in a depression in the landscape created by the weight of a large chunk of ice left behind by the last glacier.

 The entire Norwood Farm Property (including the portion retained by the family members) includes 97 acres of uplands and 144 acres of wetlands, of which 65 acres are forested.

The property represents the northernmost end of over 6,000 acres of protected land on Nantucket (much of which is owned by NCF), which extends southward all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

Brushcutting management that occurred prior to NCF ownership has greatly reduced fire danger adjacent to the Polpis Road and will compliment the fuels reduction work that NCF will be undertaking on the adjacent Middle Moors properties. The existence of these reduced fuel zones was critical to the containment of the escaped prescribed burn that occurred in April, 2007.

The forested wetlands on the property contain several specimens of flowering dogwood, a native but increasingly rare species on Nantucket and elsewhere in New England due to Anthracnose, an introduced fungal disease.

There are several healthy populations of St. Andrew’s cross, a state-endangered plant species. The only place that this species occurs in the entire state is in the northeastern portion of Nantucket Island.

There are healthy populations of Mitchell’s sedge (a state-threatened species) growing along the banks of intermittent steams on the property. This species is very rare on Nantucket due to the lack of this type of habitat.

Over 220 species of plants have been documented on the property in recent field surveys. This high species diversity is due to the diversity of habitat types found within a relatively small area.

Over 343 species of moths were recently recorded as occurring on the property by Mark Mello of the Lloyd center for the Environment. Of these, 13 species are rare and endangered. Most of these have very limited ranges because their caterpillars require specific host plants to feed on, which are found on the property.

 There are relatively few non-native invasive species found on the property. Those present (2 very small populations of Phragmites and 1 small population of Chinese plume grass) will require minimal effort to eradicate.